Then it was over to San Mateo and my company HQ office, where I had some low-priority paperwork to collect. My van now drives much more smoothly and quietly than before. I can only assume that the power steering fluid leaked away so gradually that I didn't realize what was happening, and the slowly-increasing noise and slightly-harder handling had to get to the point where it was unmistakable before I noticed it. Cory was surprised too when he took it for a test drive. You wouldn't expect a big Astro van like mine to be so easy to handle with the P/S fluid dry. Heck, I once had the P/S fail on my Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon, and it was blindingly obvious what was wrong even to a non-mechanical person like me, but the Astro actually handles quite well (except during slow speed backing-and-filling like in a parking garage) even with no P/S fluid at all.
In any event, I'm much happier to have a nice quiet and smooth-driving vehicle, and the $520 it cost me seems to be money well spent.